When one thinks of the great debates in Western culture about the existence of God, perhaps Copleston and Bertrand Russell's 1948 debate might come to mind. Even the more recent tussles between William Lane Craig and his interlocutors perhaps. Yet recently, two additional titans of philsophical prowess took to the playing field last night.
Here is the description from the New York Times:
You could tell from the background music that played beforehand – alternating recordings of James Brown and Gregorian chant – that this was going to be an unusual debate.
The question under debate (“Is God great?”) and the speakers — two men who are often depicted in harsh caricatures by their critics — might have caused some to expect something like a circus. Perhaps surprisingly, it turned out to be the public intellectual event of the evening, a bit like Bertrand Russell vs. C. S. Lewis.
Taking the atheist position was Christopher Hitchens, the journalist and author of a new book arguing that “religion poisons everything.” In defense of God was none other than the Rev. Al Sharpton, a man of the cloth who is perhaps even better known for his political and civil rights activism than for his training as a preacher.
A very strange and interesting reading can be found over at the Times. Though I prefer CS Lewis' moral argument, Rev Al seemed to try and make an argument for theism from the existence of moral values. Go get em AL! But just in case anyone is wondering if the Reverend is a Christian, you can read this quote and decide for yourself.
I would say that many people, I among them, in our own lives have had experiences that make me believe that there is a God. And make me believe that my seeking God and seeking the guidance of a supreme being is real to me. I’m not going by Moses, I’m not going by Peter, I’m not going by the man that you said was a legend, Jesus of Nazareth. … I’m not here to defend Scriptures. I didn’t write those Scriptures. I live my life, and in my life the existence of God has been confirmed to me in my own personal dealings and in my own faith being vindicated and validated. That has absolutely nothing to do with Scriptures, whether they are right or wrong.
One final note and comment on this battle of philosophical and theological giants. Hitchens seemed to offer a very accurate statement in the following:
Mr. Hitchens added, “I didn’t say that God was misused. I said that the idea of God is a dictatorial one to begin with. A belief in a supreme, eternal, invigilating creator who knows what you think and do and cares about you, watches over you while you sleep … is an innately horrific belief.”
One hears his thinking that "belief in God's wrath/hell is horrific" but it is interesting that he finds God's omniscience and omnipresence "innately horrific." In fact, if we are sinners in need of God's grace his statement is very accurate. Indeed, if God does see the mind and hearts of people, it is a horrific thing to see ourselves in light of God's holiness and justice. A word from Hebrews 4 is needed:
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. 14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Thankful to Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come...to use Rev Sharpton's own words. I do want to "go by Jesus of Nazareth" - for in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(HT - Tim Dees)